So yesterday I woke about 4 am and dozed checking on the England vs India cricket on the BBC website. Got Sam up at 6 for school and made him a pancake and also dealt with a semi-major ant attack in the kitchen. If you leave even microscopic crumbs basically an hour later the place is overrun with tiny black ants.
So at 6.30am he is off and I decide to miss my run as a) it is the last day of cricket until after I get back to the UK and b) I am trying to get the new ABC sales website finished – although it is already, minimum 2 weeks late. So I work on the veranda with cricket in my headphones feeling the heat start to ramp up.
Then Madame Gina rises to go to her school. That is her name here. Now if I cycle anywhere I get one of four callouts from passersby – in decreasing order of frequency- 1) Hello Sam’s Dad 2) How is Madame Gina?(from kids from her school) 3) OBruni – which means white man or some variant of that or 4) Hello Mister Tom – which makes me feel like I am in a late 1950’s movie on my way to meet Peter O’Toole and Denholm Elliot.
There is a hilarious old guy half way to the other village who, when I paused on my bike in front of his shack/shop ( he lives on a hill) , said “ah you have brought my bike”. I realised straight off from his grin he was up for what Sam calls “bants” ie banter.
So I am going- ” yes , thankyou so much I just need it for another few hours” as I ride off. The next day I am walking past his shop without the bike and he starts yelling “where is my bike. I have YOUR bike here!” and indeed there was a brand spanking new bike parked in front of his shack – not his of course. “I said please look after my bike for me until I return”. This bants is going to run and run.
Gina comes back just as I am heading to the sea to cool down. After the swim I cycle to Okoes for a lesson. The last 4 or 5 days he has been wearing sunglasses because of an eye infection . On asking he previously said it was getting better. But his energy has seemed different the last few days. I wasn’t sure if it was his eyes or if he was unhappy about something.
Because I have borrowed a kpanlogo from OKOE and keep it at home here – I play with a Ghanaian friend Noah on the beach- I am getting practice in between lessons and so am improving fast.
We are starting to really get into how the different part of each pattern relates to the cowbell pattern and how to switch between them. They basically all start in a different place on the cowbell pattern. It is really really cool.
We also have a really good chat about next steps. Thanks to people on Facebook and the video we have raised over £200 for the group which is amazing. He is excited – but maybe not as much as I expected.
So after the lesson I ask to look at Okoes eyes. I was pretty sure I told him last trip that I was an ex- doctor. He looks shocked but takes off his sunglasses. His eyes are very very red and look very sore. I ask to see the antibiotics he is taking. It is now obvious what is happening – those eyes are going to hurt like absolute hell. The antibiotics clearly aren’t working. The guy is in gritty eyed agony.
So I march him off to the pharmacy. On the way we talk about leaving medicine for music. He says in Ghana doctors have a huge amount of prestige and people would think you were crazy if you quit medicine for music. I couldn’t really explain it to him.
He said that as result it would be easy for me to move to Ghana and make a good living. I will hold that in reserve as a Plan C for the future ( maybe better as Plan G(H)).
After getting OKOE fresh eye drops I head off to pick up Sam’s djembe. One of the short dreadlocked djembe players ( who all hail from Burkina Faso, speak french, and live near the beach) has been making a drum for Sam with Sam’s name and designs carved into it. Today was pick up day.
He takes me into the garden of this large-ish house and I see a pile of belongings under a sheet next to the wall. He explains sheepishly that he has just been kicked out of his digs. He shows me the drum which is cool.
He then starts asking me about haemorrhoids!
It turns out he is having more than a bad week and as well as becoming homeless his piles are giving him jip!! It turns out I am having a “the Doctor is in” day. Wasn’t quite the conversation I was expecting.
I didn’t tell him I was a medic but gave him some advice. At one point he said something roughly translateable as “Without pain from the nether regions a man is not a man”.
This put a whole new slant on my recent bottom related experiences – for those of you who followed my Howard oddysey. Suddenly it gave it a Hemingway-esque macho glamour. Clearly I know I am more of a man than most by this criteria.
Gina and Sam arrived in a cab to have dinner in Kokrobite. After dinner they headed back in a cab and I said I would cycle home.
I had no lights but there was generally bits of light either from front, side, or behind enabling you to make out the rough contours of the road , or the ghostly figures walking in both directions in the darkness.
It goes without saying that the road back to Langma is like a roving explorer video of the surface of mars – with regular potholes, ravines , water erosion, and occasional bike stopping areas of deep sand.
My confidence in the wisdom of riding a bike without lights on an African road grew as I entered Langma after completing 80% of the trip safely, the main two areas of concern – crashing or getting mugged – were receding as I neared home.
This is cool, I thought, I am combining my Norris (= Biggins) swagger with Luke Skywalker ability to be at one with the road using something not unlike the “force”. I am cool.
My Biggins- Skywalker approach reached it’s inevitable conclusion as confidently , and with just the right amount of “dont fuck with me” swagger, I rode my bike head first into a deep hole and I went flying over the handlebars thus completing my second full African faceplant – this time on a bicycle.
Fortunately it was 50m or so away from being in front of the entire village, but Gina and Sam’s taxi driver was just passing , stopped and came out and picked me and the bike up.
He kept saying “sorry sorry sorry”. I said “please it is my fault. I am OK”.
I made it home on the bike following the tail lights of another passing taxi – which reveals how we should make the same trip in future. On the very bad bits of the road taxis go no faster than a push bike.
On examination after removal of grit and sand – and copious amounts of wife-applied anti-septic spray – I have grazes on both forearms and one knee, and my right big toenail looks like the end of a deep fried haggis in batter. Looks like the nail was mostly ripped off despite being inside my Adidas trainers.
Actually I was very lucky. Any graze, gash or fracture to my hands would have made drumming impossible for days, if a graze, or weeks for a gash or fracture.
Yes readers, I am a very lucky twat!
Update; It later transpires we were over-charged by 30% for the djembe, Bastard.